Hong Kong’s biggest trade body has called on the next administration to focus on economic development, warning that the rising political tension in recent years has hindered the city’s competitiveness in the region. Speaking before its annual general meeting on Thursday, Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce chairman Stephen Ng Tin-hoi said the city had been left behind by Singapore, Shanghai and Shenzhen in many economic aspects, mainly due to its excessive focus on policies, leaving funding applications of major projects stuck in the Legislative Council . Despite better-than-expected economic growth in the first quarter of 4.3 per cent, the chamber expected full-year growth of 2 to 3 per cent, citing global uncertainties and a strong Hong Kong dollar. Ng urged Hong Kong to set aside internal political struggles to fully ride on the opportunities of Beijing’s “Greater Bay Area” plan for closer ties between cities in the Pearl River Delta “We have been too busy with internal affairs, and ignored the external challenges. It has caused a deteriorating situation of Hong Kong [compared to regional rivals].” We have been too busy with internal affairs, and ignored the external challenges Stephen Ng Tin-hoi, General Chamber of Commerce He said Singapore had not only surpassed the city in global competitiveness rankings but was also way ahead in terms of the number of free trade agreements. “We do need to look for our shortcomings,” he said. After being elected the city’s next leader in March, Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor pledged to “heal the social divide” and “unite our society to move forward”. She takes over on July 1. Ng described the “One Belt, One Road” trade initiative of President Xi Jinping as an “extremely valuable opportunity” for Hong Kong’s financial and professional service industry amid a rising trend of trade protectionism in Western countries. The initiative aims to open trade along two key corridors – the land-based old Silk Road across the north and the 21st century maritime Silk Road in the south. He said the “Greater Bay Area” plan for rapid development in Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macau was both an opportunity and a threat as the city’s services could be provided by other places if Hong Kong did not make an effort to integrate. “Hong Kong has earned its status today because of its business achievements ... I hope Carrie Lam will prioritise economic development,” he said.